Hen Fruit©

By Nunny Peterson

Lil' Ma  it seemed, gave special treatment to me although I think she tried to treat everyone equally, even if it wasn't in her nature to do so. Not that she ever let me think, I was better than my brothers. or any other as far as that goes. Don’t know if it was because of the good head on my shoulder As she put it or, did well in school, gave her no kind of trouble. Yet, anytime I stepped out of line or got too big my britches That was when she’d break out the gall berry switches But in fairness to her it wasn’t for hers but my own good.If I had a nickel for the number of times I heard that line That usually came before she was ready to tan my hide. She could be as congenial as she could be mean wWith signifying humor and a whimsical style. Whether it was something obvious or I’d have to think about. It was her way of showing maybe I was smart but she was wiser

One of my favorite times was around the fourth of every month When she would receive in the mail her old aged pension check. Which couldn’t have been more than twenty dollars at best. The following day I could hardly wait to go trading with her, not if it meant skipping school though, of which was a rule. Lil Ma didn’t play that, but sometime gave me a break. As long as on my next report, I brought home a few A’s

Since we didn’t own a car, we’d have to bum a ride to Mister Mac Fatter’s general store in Vernon some sixteen miles away First thing she did when she walked in was settle her account. with Mister Mac Fatter, owner of one of two local general stores. Then she would turn to me, son you can go get the buggy now. When I returned she’d begin reading from a list of what we needed to get us through the month till the next check came.

Down the aisles we’d go, twenty-five pound of self rising flour white corn meal, a gallon of cooking oil, Clabber girl baking powder. Ten pounds of sugar, a box of salt, bottle of Blackburn’s store bought syrup. A can of ginger to make teacakes, lima beans, two cans of tomatoes,  Mahatma long grain rice red Irish potatoes, a can of oil sausages. Can you think of anything else that I‘m forgitting son,” she asked? Strawberry Kool-aid, gingersnaps or honey graham crackers, moon pies show would be nice with a box carnation milk Lord son, she’d mumbled to herself, “nothing but sweets boy all that sugar ain’t do nothing but make you wormy.Go head she said, ‘scusing you and po lil ole Marvin now, Little ma can’t feed all the younguns in the settlement, especially on that little not much, I git from the guv’ment. Can’t wait til ya’ll gits grown, so ya’ll can have a lil’ hush mouth of ya’ll own.

No twelve year-old could've been happier that I when she gave in. Okay now, just you remember, I got plenny of castpr oil, she grinned proud she could provide me with such menial pleasure then she’d think of a few things that wasn’t on that list. A pound of hoop cheese, b‘loney meat, some light bread Reckon I better git a box of saltines and some Luziann coffee..

We ventured over where the butcher was cutting meats. Suh, mind cutting me offa little piece of that bacon please, a pound of stew beef, and I reckon a piece of white side meat,  go good really with a mess of collard greens?

One of those she trips turned to me; go git us a dozen of them hen fruits. I’d heard of peaches, pears, plums, strawberries, apples, oranges,  grapefruit, bananas, blueberries, blackberries, huckleberries. Gooseberries sparkle berries, but hen fruit was all new to me. I wracked my brains, since I didn’t have a clue What in the world was she talking about? Hen Fruit? Must’ve missed that class in agriculture? Never heard of a hen tree. Not to appear lame, I pushed the buggy over to the fruit. There were peaches,  pears, bananas, blueberries and a host of other fruit that was in season, yet had no idea If they had hen fruit in stock and I was not, about to ask. She always told me, don't open yo mouth and show my Ig'nance 'round White folk. They they might think you're stupid, cause I'll have tell 'em quick I ain't raised no stupid younguns."

I returned to the counter where she could check out, or should I say put it on her account until next month. "Son did you git the hen fruit I axed you to. "No ma’am,"  I answered in such a way she wouldn’t have a clue that I didn’t know what she was talking about. She would turn to the Mister Mac Fatters and ask, " ya'll aint got no hen fruit today? Yes'sam auntie, they right yonder, where yo grand boy went. We got regular ones and browns, laid yesterday how many you want? I reckon we’ll need about a dozen of them brown ones!

She turned to me, boy sometimes you so scatterbrained,   youngun how come you ain’t see them eggs?